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First leg of Calif. high-speed rail approved

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"We are now poised to move forward and break ground next year," Jeff Morales, CEO of theCalifornia High-Speed Rail Authority, said in a statement, adding that the project would invest billions of dollars in local and regional rail systems.

California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed an initial funding bill for the train project in July that cleared the way for construction of 130 miles of track.

Brown says a bullet train network will boost job creation and provide an alternative to car and plane travel in the country's most populous state.

Critics, however, say California can ill afford the $68 billion project that farmers' unions regard as an "imminent threat" to some of the most agriculturally productive land in the United States.

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